When the army engaged the LTTE in the outskirts of Kilinochchi a few moons ago, Prabhakaran threatened to turn that well-fortified township into a mass grave for the troops. A pompous Tiger chief audaciously roared that if President Mahinda Rajapaksa ever toyed with the idea of wresting control of that bastion, he was only daydreaming. Prabhakaran`s much-publicised threat gave a fresh impetus to the Opposition s campaign to derail the country`s war effort.
Emboldened by Prabhakaran`s rhetoric, a UNP MP had the temerity to say in Parliament that the army was heading for Medawachchiya, while claiming to go to Kilinochchiya and instead of capturing Alimankada (Elephant Pass) it was moving towards Pamankada. These sarcastic remarks were redolent of a deep antipathy against the national military rather than anything else.
On Thursday, President Rajapaksa made his detractors eat their words by visiting Kilinochchi, accompanied by the Service Commanders. His visit is historic in the real sense of the term.
Before the 2005 presidential election, President Rajapaksa said he was prepared to meet Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi and discuss a political solution. Prabhakaran, intoxicated to the gills with his military might and cocky that he was capable of carving out a separate state militarily, pooh-poohed that offer and even before President Rajapaksa was ensconced in office, he promised to revert to war. He rode rough shod over the government which sought to resume peace talks he had unilaterally suspended under the UNF government in 2003 and plunged the country back into war first by killing police and military personnel with mine attacks, accounting for some of the military top brass, making attempts on the present Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and finally by capturing the Mavil Aru anicut.
Prabhakaran`s Great Immersion in Mavil Aru in 2006 marked a turning point in the conflict. It marked not only the commencement of the fourth phase of the so-called Eelam war but the beginning of the LTTE`s downfall.
Today, the President is visiting Kilinochchi, which was once dubbed `the administrative capital of Eelam`, without Prabhakaran. In 1994, the Tiger Chief spurned President Chandrika Kumaratunga`s offer of the entire Northern Province sans elections for a period of ten years. Had he been amenable to those offers, he would not have been in deep waters. One is reminded of rank hubris JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera exuded when President Ranasinghe Premadasa called for a meeting to thrash out a peace deal. Wijeweera went ahead with bloodletting and finally perished at the hands of the military. The same fate awaits the Tiger chief.
The President`s Kilinochchi tour is more than an attempt to twist the knife or a political gimmick in the run-up to the WPC polls. He has sent a clear message to Prabhakaran: He is determined to go the whole hog to finish off terrorists.
In eliminating the political causes of the conflict, defeating the LTTE terrorism is half the battle. Prabhakaran is in hiding just like the pro-Indian puppet militia, the Tamil National Army (TNA), whose combatants hid themselves even in public lavatories after the IPKF had left, only to be dragged out and massacred by the LTTE. He cannot go on playing hide and seek behind women`s clotheslines and babies` cots forever. He will be made to pay for his crimes before long.
The day President Rajapaksa makes a trip to Puthukudiyiruppu may not be far off.